What is the difference between a tree surgeon and an arborist?

“Tree surgeon” is the well-known term for someone who can help manage and care for your trees, yet there is often confusion regarding the more in-depth role of an aboriculturist or arborist.

The skills and experience of a tree surgeon can vary widely.  Someone can be a tree surgeon if they have passed the exam for climbing with a chainsaw; they may have no knowledge of how to manage trees.  However, other tree surgeons will have many years of experience and knowledge.

An arborist will be expected to have additional expertise and qualifications to carry out professional tree inspections and related consultancy services.  They should also have professional indemnity insurance. 

What does a tree surgeon do?

Many tree surgeons can boast appropriate qualifications and a great deal of experience in maintaining and looking after trees, usually by climbing and pruning the tree.  However they are not always fully trained in tree care and the many biological or bio-mechanical issues your trees and woodland may face.

A tree surgeon will be fully capable of removing a branch or tree stump, tree felling and hedge trimming, however a professional tree inspection or appropriate management advice will require the additional expertise of an arborist.

What does a tree arborist do?

A qualified and experienced arborist, or ‘arboricultural consultant’, will be able to understand tree physiology and biomechanics. An arborist will be able to assess tree defects and safety and provide appropriate management recommendations in order to reduce risk to an acceptable level.  

A consulting arborist will be fully competent to perform tree inspections and BS5837 surveys and assure the continued safety of your trees. Always ensure the arborist has appropriate Professional Indemnity insurance, in case something goes wrong.

Our qualifications and experience

Having gained my tree surgery qualifications in 2004, I started my first company – Arbor Vitae Professional Tree Services – to perform just that: tree surgery, maintenance, planting and woodland management services.

I have since continued to develop practical and academic knowledge through seminars, conferences, professional body memberships, relevant literature and discussions with colleagues. Hence Arbor Vitae Arboriculture was established in 2010 to offer an extended set of services including professional tree inspections.

My qualifications as an arborist, or arboricultural consultant, include:

  • LANTRA Professional Tree Inspector Certificate
  • Level 4 Award in Arboriculture
  • Certificate of Competence in ‘Bats & Tree Related Works’

I have also attended the Expert Visual Tree Assessment course with Professor Claus Mattheck in Germany.

My current professional memberships include:

These memberships and qualifications – plus 16 years of experience in tree surgery and arboricultural consultancy – allow me to state my professional expertise in tree inspections and BS5837 surveys.

Further skills and experience

I have also developed further skills from voluntary work in Borneo and India, climbing giant rainforest trees under the instruction of ecological researchers.  

I have plentiful experience in tree lighting, tree planting, soil de-compaction, Air Spade trenching, woodland design and management.

Myself and the Arbor Vitae Aboriculture team now work with many residential and corporate clients in Scotland including large construction firms, councils and utility providers.

Our arborist and consultancy services

We provide professional consultancy services such as pre-development surveys, inspections for bats in trees and soil de-compaction as well as the essential care and management of trees and woodlands. Find out more in the Arboricultural Services section.

If you would like further information regarding any of our arborist services, or if you need a recommended tree surgeon in the Edinburgh area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

Mike Charkow (Senior Arborist)
07917 335 066

View Mike Charkow's profile on LinkedIn

About Arbor Vitae Arboriculture
Mike Charkow CV (January 2020)